Thursday, February 20, 2014

COLABORADORES DEL ISTITUTO EUROPEO: Virginia Andrea Cerdá




Nací en Villa María, provincia de Córdoba, en Argentina, el veinte de abril de 1978. Durante la enseñanza media, teníamos clases de idioma francés, lo que me hizo más fácil aprender italiano, ya que son idiomas parecidos. Algunos años después, en 2001, por iniciativa de una amiga de mi familia, Paola Gianaria, comencé a estudiar idioma italiano, como me gustan los idiomas extranjeros, (que no quiere decir que hable muchos), se me hizo fácil aprender el idioma del Bello País. En diciembre de 2008, rendí como alumna libre el examen de primer año de la Dante Alighieri, en Villa María. Al año siguiente, mientras iba a clase del tercer curso de la Dante, rendí también como alumna libre el examen de segundo año. En el año 2011, terminé el quinto año, y en ese mismo mes retomé la carrera de Técnico en Alimentos con Orientación Bromatológica, en mi ciudad. Desde hace siete años doy clases de apoyo a los pequeños alumnos que tienen al italiano como una asignatura más en la escuela.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

"ITALIAN WRITERS": interview with Dianne Hales, American journalist and author


Dianne Hales
interview by Fabrizio Ulivieri and Louisa Loring



I would like to know how you became involved and interested in the Italian language and Italy? How did this love started?

Years ago I wrote a book on sleep and was invited to talk on the subject at a conference in Gstaad. Switzerland was cold and bleak, and on impulse I hopped on a train to Italy. I made my way from Milan to Florence to Rome and was entranced by everything I saw, but the only Italian I knew was “Mi dispiace. Non parlo Italiano.” I was so intrigued by the Italian words that I heard all around me and so frustrated that I couldn’t communicate with Italians that I swore to learn this beautiful language.

In a recent interview you quote E.M.Forster: “Love and understand the Italians, for the people are more marvelous than the land”. I would have said the opposite…

The Italians have always been gracious, welcoming, generous, charming. One of the things that motivated me to keep studying was meeting some wonderful Italian women who didn’t speak English. I felt such a connection with them that I pushed myself to become fluent in their language so we could become friends—and we did. Yes, Italy is a beautiful land, but I love its beautiful people even more.

What did you learn most about life and about yourself through learning Italian? Do you think a foreign language opens a new window into how you see yourself?

Absolutely. Through Italian I entered what I think of as a parallel universe where I learned different ways of thinking about everything from time to family to priorities to pleasures. English is the language I use to work, write, manage, accomplish things. For me Italian is the language that brings joy and laughter, that opens me up to alternative ways of being and behaving, that touches my heart as much as it challenges my brain. Mi sento a mio agio in italiano ed in Italia!

What is the best thing Italy has taught you?

To follow my passion. For most of my career I have written about health and psychology, fields that I find interesting, but Italian filled me with a passion to learn more and more. Italians sometimes tell me that what makes me Italian is my passion, and what I admire most in Italians is the passion they bring to wine-making, olive-growing, fashion design, cooking, just about everything.

Similarly, what do you try and teach your readers by exploring Italy’s history, language and culture?

I tell readers and students that Italian opens the door to the best of everything: art, music, fashion, literature, food. I urge them to learn Italian, not just for the sake of becoming fluent, but for the sake of entering and exploring new worlds.

Where did you find inspiration for writing an entire book on the Italian Language?


Florence first and foremost. Several years ago I read about an exhibit on the history of Italian at the Uffizi and I arranged to come to Florence and study with one of the docents. Through her I discovered Dante, Boccaccio, Petrarch. The language kept leading me in new directions: art, music, food, cinema. There was so much material that I had to leave out an entire chapter on fashion.

One of the most beautiful and also, most difficult thing about the Italian language is the many dialects. Do you find this a positive thing in the sense that in a way your learning of the Italian language never ends?

It’s frustrating at times because when I’m part of an Italian discussion someone will use a dialect phrase and I’m lost. But I appreciate the individuality that dialects give Italian. I’ve never tried to learn a dialect—I still have much to learn in Italian Standard—but I’ve come to appreciate the nuances that only dialect words can capture.

Your most recent book, Mona Lisa: A Life Discovered, which is scheduled to come out in August 2014, talks about Mona Lisa’s journey. How did you go about researching and compiling information? Was most of your work done in Italy?
When I was in Florence researching La Bella Lingua, I read newspaper reports about Giuseppe Pallanti’s discovery of various archival documents from Lisa Gherardini’s family. Through another Pallanti, a family friend, in Florence, I met Giuseppe, who gave me a map of Florence and marked with X’s the places where she had lived. When I went to the street where she was born-- the rather sad and smelly Via Squazza—I was struck by the fact that, while everyone knows Lisa’s face (at least as Leonardo portrayed it), no one knows her story—even that it had such a humble beginning.

I began thinking like a journalist and asking the questions of my trade—who, what, where, when, how and why. I rented apartments in Lisa’s neighborhoods in Florence. I came across a 500-year-old history of her family in the state archives. I walked her streets, visited her churches, found the chapel where she should have been buried—and the abandoned convent where she actually was interred. And I immersed myself in every aspect of daily life in Renaissance Florence. Slowly Leonardo’s Lisa began to come alive in my imagination. Now when I come to Florence—or even think of this beautiful city—I see her everywhere.

People often think of Italians as a very healthy population and I know that in the past you have been interested in health. Have you had thoughts to mingle your two passions for health and Italy in some kind of article or book for the future?

What a wonderful idea! I have written some posts about health on my blog, and a book on mental health that I wrote with my psychiatrist husband some years ago was translated as La Salute della Mente. I think Americans could learn a great deal from Italians about healthy eating—and Italians might learn some things about not smoking. I’m impressed that I see more Italians jogging these days than I did twenty years ago, but I still see many more smokers than in the U.S.

What is next for you? Are you currently working on another book?

My “day job” for many years has been writing college health textbooks. My daughter, who is training to be a psychotherapist, and I are collaborating on a college textbook called Personal Stress Management. I know that lo stress is a problem in Italy too, but I don’t know if a book on managing it would be of interest to Italians.

I plan to keep writing about Italy and Italian on my blog (www.becomingitalianwordbyword.typepad.com) and my La Bella Lingua group on Facebook. As for another book, I will have to keep coming back to Italy until I find a topic as intriguing as the real story of La Gioconda.

Thank you so much for your interest and your invitation. It’s been a true pleasure.



Tuesday, February 18, 2014

"ITALIAN WRITERS": Elizabeth Gilbert


by Louisa Loring



Elizabeth Gilbert is by now a well-known American author thanks to her best selling memoir Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia in which she describes the year she spent abroad in search to rediscover herself through other cultures lenses after a divorce that left her feeling alone. She spent three months in each country, first in Rome where she was excited by the Italian language, the food and the Italian way of enjoying life fully. She then went to India where she spend time working on her spirituality and finally to Indonesian in search of finding balance.

When Gilbert arrived in Rome, knowing not one word of Italian, she jumped right in fully immersed herself in the daily life of the Romans by renting an apartment right in town and spending her days wondering the city, map-less and meeting people. When in Rome, right? At first, she had enrolled in an Italian language course but soon learned that the best way to experience a culture and do as the Italians really do is to meet Italians and be out in the streets, instead of in a classroom. With this revelation, Gilbert dropped her Language class and used her time to read the paper, talk to the old woman selling her vegetables at the daily market, dining at restaurants, getting lost in alleys and making new friends. In this way, Gilbert really learned the pleasure of life, as the Italians live life everyday by taking joy in the small acts of making the choice to cook a fresh meal at home, prepared in the way that the old lady had suggested. By the end of her months abroad, Gilbert had not set one foot in a museum but could sit down at a Roman trattoria, read a menu from top to bottom with no trouble and order a full course meal for her and her friends with no hesitation whatsoever. She had gained a sense of confidence and had rediscovered, first-hand, how to take joy in everything she did from the challenges of communication, to the endless hours spent lost in Rome and the “dinner for one”.

After finishing up her time in India and Indonesia, feeling reborn and unexpectedly, in love again with a man she had met in Indonesia, Gilbert returned to her life in the United States, newly inspired and ready for her new life. Since her return and the success of her memoir, she has been writing and traveling around doing interviews and sharing her story. For many women, she is an inspiration; she proves that anyone can rediscover themselves and the meaning of life by letting go and moving forward with a new perspective. She has given women the inspiration to be independent and to not be afraid to try something new, even if it means an unexpected lifestyle change. Gilbert has since written two books, Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage (2010) and The Signature of All Things (2013) and also written many articles.


 
 

A BORDERLINE MANAGER - Interview with Carlo Cammelli, Responsabile Settore Tecnologie e supporto ai processi ICT at Consiglio Regionale della Toscana



Carlo Cammelli

Interview by Fabrizio Ulivieri
English version by Louisa Loring





Would you start by telling us a bit about your job and what you do here?

I specialize in all things technology, which includes information, communication, and technology.  I don’t only work with computers and all that revolves around them but also, telephony and all forms of communication and services.  I work in very specific area - multimedia which includes everything that happens in the Consiglio (Tuscan regional government) - production and postproduction.  They also gave me the responsibility for all that is printed, the typography. The world of communication and technology has changed. Today it means being able to primarily give people the ability to connect and interact, which is what we do.

What is the aspect most difficult about your job and what you do?

The hardest thing about my job is understanding what exactly people are asking me for and how to respond to them in the right way.  Often, people will ask me for a service to help them and I need to find the best one that will work the best for their situation.  Often, I need to use my judgment and make an assessment based on my knowledge of technological methods.

Yes, you really need to understand the market and follow their trends.

Yes, exactly.  In fact, this is exactly what I do and the role of the CIO has changed a lot in recent years.  Now we have to understand how suitable technology is for how people live and use it.

You are a bit of a ‘boarder-line’ man because on one side you work for the Consiglio della Regione Toscana and so you have to meet that demand.  On the other side, you are faced with the city of Florence.  How can you facilitate the demands of both the Consiglio della Regione Toscana and all the technological aspects and the relationship with the city?

Today, this is one of the most important questions that you could have asked me because the idea of the presence of this institution, which is public and represents the whole Tuscan society, is very significant.  This is an idea where technology can be used to communicate beliefs and opinions and to make the citizens understand exactly what is happening.  Lets use the recent example of the expansion of the airport.  It has been a long battle.  This is not something that we advise on but rather, we look to understand how destructive or positive it is for Florence.  Technology permits us, in my opinion, to have a clearer idea of what is going on; it allows us to see the whole picture.  This is the most critical point that we work on continually– to try to make people understand fully what is going on and thus, they can learn how best to move forward.  Also, to understand the type of position the citizens take to these changes.  I think it is very important for the opinions of the Florentine citizens to be taken into consideration.

Do you have any examples of specific projects to give us an idea of how you work to connect the Consiglio and the city?

There are two branches of this.  The first is to ‘rendere manifesto’ (to inform people), that which is decided and that which is actually achieved by the Consiglio.  Using the network, we make available a whole list of everything that is going on and thus, anyone who wants can follow. We have also made it possible to take part in the events going on here through the web in a very easy way.  If you have something else to do and can’t participate in an event, you can search for exactly what you would like to see by theme and this new system will steam that specific part of the event.  This makes everything clearer and simpler.  This is the first level.  The second is that of interaction.  A while back, we started a blog about the health care plan that is important for many reasons, to hear the opinions of the citizens.  In this way, voices were heard and some problems came out and were solved.   Now we are working on the open data, which is a huge initiative that allows citizens to see information about government projects such as healthcare projects or urbanization projects without mediation, which allows for collaboration.

What are you still working on and what would you like to further change? Are you working towards a specific goal?

The solution that I am trying to find is to raise the level of digitalization of the organization.  Digitalization is really two things.  Firstly, it doesn’t mean using less paper and saving trees, it is not this.  It is rather, a method to make information visible and available faster and at our fingertips so we can share it.  There are many institutions and systems that rely heavily on paper but all the most important things cannot be accessed solely in print form today because it slows the process of sharing and the idea of rapid distribution.  This is one of the areas we are working very hard on. 

This leads me to another question.  Obviously, politicians aren’t always ‘digitalized’ or aren’t always up to speed with the most current method of technological developments.  How does this pose problems for you?

Our system of the Consiglio is made up of two main groups: the politicians and those who offer services, or work at the Consiglio.  There are those who are always using technology in their work and making sure all that is done is connected to the web.  And then there are those who don’t.  This creates a problem because those things that get accomplished and worked on by those who are not ‘digitalized’ does not become identified and acknowledged and they become marginalized. 

What are some of the best parts of your job and what are the parts least interesting?

I consider myself fortunate because I have a job that I love.  This is one of the most important things to consider about work.  A challenging aspect is seeing the difference between what you think is happening and then what is actually being done to change or not change things.  Sometimes I see work being done as if our work finishes within these walls but our work at the Consiglio should just be a launching pad to jump off and move forward.  I believe that those as me, who believe and want to share information, are working to find new ways to make information rapidly available but there are still those who are scared and want to resist this technology and hide information as if it was theirs alone to access.

To finish, can you give us a piece of advice as how to face technology today and move forward?

Technology is a point of departure because you can grow, learn and understand its potential. This question ties into the story of the CIO that I spoke of earlier. Some years ago, CIOs would compete for who had the best, newest computer but it didn’t help anyone because it was for personal use and didn’t make the general population more technologically savvy. Today, CIOs need not be afraid of change to new methods of technology but rather, see its power and share them with others to help connect everyone. Always be open and willing to try new thing. Understanding what kind of information you are being given and how you can make it accessible is fundamental.


Etimologie e modi di dire italiani: la mozzarella



La mozzarella

di Ilaria Gelichi


Oggi parliamo di cibo italiano e più precisamente del formaggio più famoso del mondo: la mozzarella. Il nome di questa prelibatezza tutta italiana nasce dal processo di preparazione: si ottiene infatti mozzando con le mani una striscia di pasta. Da qui, con l’aggiunta di un suffisso diminutivo, è nato il nome della mozzarella (nel XVI secolo circa).

Esistono vari tipi di mozzarella: la classica tonda, quella a forma di treccia, quella di bufala e quella di latte vaccino (la cosiddetta fior di latte). La mozzarella di bufala viene prodotta principalmente in Campania, ma anche in alcune province del Lazio meridionale e nella provincia di Foggia; altrove invece è più comune la mozzarella fior di latte. In Sardegna, in Abruzzo ed in parte del Lazio si produce la mozzarella pecorina, chiamata anche mozzapecora, che si ottiene con l’aggiunta del caglio di agnello.

La storia della mozzarella è fatta più che altro di leggende ed ipotesi. Dato che la variante originale di questo formaggio prevede l’utilizzo del latte di bufala, si pensa che l’origine della mozzarella sia legata all’introduzione di questi animali nell’Italia meridionale: secondo alcuni grazie ai Greci già nel VI secolo a.C., secondo altri grazie ai Normanni verso l’anno Mille. Molti documenti medievali citano già la mozzarella con il nome di “mozza”, ma quello in cui troviamo per la prima volta il nome attuale è un testo di cucina scritto da un cuoco della corte Papale: si elencano tutti i formaggi da lui serviti e tra questi c’è anche la mozzarella. Nei secoli successivi la mozzarella inizia a diffondersi anche nel resto d’Italia e nel Novecento la sua fama diventa mondiale.
Mozzarella in carrozza

La mozzarella è l’ingrediente fondamentale di tantissimi piatti italiani, primo fra tutti la pizza, anche se principalmente viene consumata al naturale, come nella famosissima caprese: con pomodori freschi, olio, origano e basilico. Altri piatti tipici italiani a base di mozzarella sono la parmigiana di melanzane (preparata alternando in una pirofila strati di melanzane fritte o grigliate con salsa di pomodoro, mozzarella e parmigiano grattugiato) e la mozzarella in carrozza, che si prepara facendo dei sandwich farciti con la mozzarella, che poi bisogna passare nella farina e nell’uovo ed infine friggere.



Fonte etimologia: L’Etimologico di A. Nocentini, le Monnier Università


Tuesday, February 11, 2014

I collaboratori dell'Istituto Europeo: Virginia Andrea Cerdá






Mi chiamo Virginia Andrea Cerdá, sono nata a Villa María, Córdoba,  Argentina, il 20 aprile 1978. 
Ho sempre avuto passione per le lingue straniere. Già alle medie studiavo francese. Nel 2001 su suggerimento di Paola Gianaria, un' amica di famiglia, ho cominciato a studiare italiano. Non mi è stato difficile imparare l'italiano data la passione che avevo, ed ho, per la lingua del Bel Paese. Nel 2008 ho fatto l’esame (come privatista) del primo anno  presso la Dante Alighieri di Villa María, e l'ho superato. Nel 2009 ho fatto l’esame del secondo corso e del terzo corso insieme, due anni in uno. 
Nel 2011 ho finito di studiare alla Dante, e a dicembre dello stesso anno, ho ripreso lo lo studio della Tecnicatura en Alimentos con Orientación Bromatológica  nella mia città. Finalmente quest'anno finirò. Dico "finalmente" perché io in realtà amo di piú studiare le lingue. Sono anche appassionata di storia antica e amo fare sport.  
Da sette anni faccio lezioni di appoggio per i bambini che studiano italiano.
Da circa due mesi ho cominciato a collaborare con l'Istituto Europeo scrivendo per il loro blog.
Ho accettato con entusiasmo perché questo mi permette di scrivere in italiano e nella mia lingua, trattando temi che mi appassionano.
Ringrazio davvero l'Istituto Europeo per l' opportunità che mi ha concesso.

Vegetarian Restaurants in Florence



 by Louisa Loring


Maybe you never thought about it or maybe you have been searching for a change from that Florentine steak, but Florence is home to many vegan and vegetarian options.  In a country where meat is a constant staple in the diet, it might appear to be lacking in these types of restaurants but Florence is actually scattered with various options, either for lunch, dinner or for a sweet snack. 

Dolce Vegan: Via San Gallo, 92/r
This restaurant serves not only organic, vegan lunches but is also home to a bakery and catering service.  With the newly added raw menu as of December 2013, the restaurant keeps expanding.  There are homemade pasta and rice dishes as well as alternative meat proteins and creative beans.  If you don’t have time to sit down, there is also a take away option for those with busy schedules. 

Bveg: Via Orti Oricellari 6/r
This bistro offers both a vegetarian and vegan menu with various choices made with local ingredients and produce.  You can either stop in for a proper meal or have one of their artesian beers or fresh squeezed juices while profiting from their free Wi-Fi.

Caffellatte – La latteria: Via degli Alfani, 39/r
This whole in the wall is plating up organic vegetarian dishes and desserts.  Everything is run and handmade by the owners.  Come either for their brunch all day or for a slice of cake and a cup of tea in the afternoon.  You can also purchase local and fair trade products such as tea, chocolate and milk. 

Il Sedano Allegro: Via Farini 1/3 r
This vegetarian restaurant was established in 1990 and is still a favorite today.   It is casual and quite but will sure to please with a menu full of first and second course dishes such as baked eggplant, strawberry risotto and vegetarian skewers. 

Il Vegetariano: Via delle Ruote, 30/r
This roman vegetarian restaurant has daily specials to accompany the daily fixed menu.  There are no waiters; the chef serves you and you choose either to sit inside or outside on the terrace.  Its cozy atmosphere and kind staff will keep you coming back again and again. 

Le Fate: Borgo Allegri, 9
This restaurant has put a unique spin on its menu by bringing together astrology with food.  Every zodiac sign is paired with a specific vegetarian or vegan friendly dish.  There is also Wi-Fi and music.

La Raccolta: Via Giacomo Leopardi, 2/r
La Raccolta is both a health food store and a restaurant in one.  Since 1985, they have been selling local and organic produce and goods while serving up vegan meat options for lunch.  They serve raw foods and also accommodate those with gluten allergies.   Dine in or take out, this place is a one stop hit with all you need. 

Ruths: Via Luigi Carlo Farini, 2a
Although this restaurant does serve fish, the menu is lacto-vegetarian. Located in the Jewish quarter of town next to Sant’Ambrogio, Ruths will accommodate vegans upon request. If you are still working on your Italian skills, don’t worry because they speak English here.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Etimologie e modi di dire italiani: il Carnevale

Il Carnevale di Viareggio
di Ilaria Gelichi



Il periodo di Carnevale, festa tipica italiana e dei Paesi di religione cattolica, inizia tradizionalmente subito dopo la fine delle vacanze natalizie, tuttavia i festeggiamenti entrano nel vivo solitamente dopo qualche settimana. Questo dipende da quando cade la Pasqua: se è bassa (cioè se cade alla fine di marzo o ai primi di aprile) si comincia a festeggiare già a fine gennaio; se invece è alta (nella seconda o terza decade di aprile) come accade quest’anno, il Carnevale si può protrarre da metà febbraio fino all’inizio di marzo.

I Carnevali italiani “più celebri” cominceranno il prossimo fine settimana, 15-16 febbraio: Venezia, Viareggio, Fano, Ivrea si stanno preparando proprio in questi giorni all’inizio dei festeggiamenti, che culmineranno il Martedì Grasso (quest’anno il 4 marzo), giorno che segna la fine del Carnevale e l’inizio della Quaresima.

Ma qual è il significato della parola “carnevale”? Il termine deriva dal latino carnem levare, cioè “eliminare la carne” dai pasti. In antichità infatti si indicava con questa parola il banchetto del Martedì Grasso, in cui si consumavano pietanze a base di carne per l’ultima volta prima dell’inizio della Quaresima, periodo in cui si praticava il digiuno e l’astinenza dalle carni. In seguito, per estensione, la parola carnevale ha preso ad indicare l’intero periodo che precede la Quaresima.

Burlamacco, la maschera tradizionale di Viareggio
Se vi trovate in Italia per le vacanze o per lavoro durante il periodo di Carnevale, assistete almeno ad uno dei tantissimi eventi organizzati ormai dappertutto, dalla città più grande a quella più piccola. Il Carnevale di Venezia è naturalmente il più noto d’Italia, ma se vi trovate in Toscana non potete perdervi quello di Viareggio, che vanta i carri in movimento più grandi del mondo. Nella cittadina toscana la cerimonia di apertura si terrà sabato 15 febbraio a partire dalle ore 18: ci saranno show, fuochi d’artificio e maschere, con protagonista quella di Burlamacco (la maschera ufficiale di Viareggio). Per tutti i dettagli sul Carnevale di Viareggio, visitate il sito ufficiale: http://viareggio.ilcarnevale.com/

 

Friday, February 7, 2014

"ITALIAN WRITERS": DIANNE HALES





By Louisa Loring


Numerous writers are drawn to Italy for inspiration and gain a wider view and understanding of the world and history including the widely published and award-winning journalist, Dianne Hales who has been coming to Italy for research, travel and study for decades.  A native born American, she now lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her family, keeping busy with her writing.  Throughout her long career as a journalist, she has been a contributing editor for various magazines such as Parade and American Health as well as a constant writer for The New York Times, Readers' Digest, Washington Post and Woman's Day, amongst many others. 

Dianne has won numerous prizes for her books and publications about health.  Her books include: La Bella Lingua, Think Thin, Be Thin, Just Like a Woman and Caring for the Mind.  She also is the author of the best-selling college health textbook, An Invitation to Health, and coauthor of An Invitation to Personal Change.  At a certain point, Dianne fell in love with learning the Italian language which pushed her to study for over two decades both in Italy and in the U.S. through classes, conversation groups, CD’s and films.  In learning Italian, Dianne realized that she had not only learned a new language but also, acquired a new understanding of the world through the Italian culture.  Slowly but surely, Dianne found herself falling in love with the language, country, people and culture from which she drew inspiration for her book La Bella Lingua, which takes readers through a journey about the Italian language by knitting together etymology, stories and unexpected connections and experiences in Italy. 

Today, Dianne continues to share her ever-growing knowledge of Italian through blogging.  Great for prospective students wanting to dive into the language and also, native Italian speakers, her blog and website offer a vast amount of information in the hopes to share what the Italian language has thought her about living, or rather, the art of living.  Lately, Dianne has been working on her most recent book, Mona Lisa: A Life Discovered, which is scheduled to come out in August 2014. 

When visiting Florence in one of her many trips, Dianne found herself asking where the real Mona Lisa came from and what is her story.  And she did just that.  With Mona Lisa: A Life Discovered, she uncovers the story of Lisa Gherardini, the girl in the most famous painting in the world by Leonardo da Vinci through a thrilling mix of history, biography, and memoir.  She paints a picture of Florence in fine detail, emphasizing its beauty and cultural and historical richness by taking readers through her life and exploring her daily rituals and lifestyle, bringing in character from decedents living today. 





Chocolate fair 2014 in Florence

by Ilaria Gelichi



Are you fond for chocolate? Then you cannot miss the 10th edition of the Chocolate Fair (Fiera del cioccolato artigianale), that opens its doors in Florence today, February 7 until Sunday, February 16 2014. The fair will be held in Santa Maria Novella Square, near the train station and will host chocolate artisans and foodbloggers. From 10 AM to 10 PM Italian and international masters will wow tourists and locals with their chocolate creations. In addition, you will find presentations of books, workshops for adults and children but also a space dedicated to charity.
Have a look at the official website for more information: www.fieradelcioccolato.it

WHEN: 7-16 February 2014
WHERE: Piazza Santa Maria Novella, Florence
OPENING HOURS: 10 AM – 10 PM





Thursday, February 6, 2014

Do as the Italians Do: Aperitivo in Florence



 by Louisa Loring



For foreigners and travelers to Italy the idea of the aperitivo is so fresh and sensible, that we begin to wonder why our own culture never adopted the idea.  If you haven’t experienced an aperitivo hands on yet, you are sure to have been witness to one, as they are hard to avoid.  Essentially, an aperitivo is the time typically between 7pm and 9:30pm in a bar where you sip on a cocktail or glass of wine.  This cocktail is like your ticket to the buffet spreads that the bar offers.  Once you have ordered, you are free to fill your plate with the various snacks and fully prepared first courses.  Whether you want to make a light dinner of it or need to tie yourself over before a late dinner, your options are endless.  You will typically see plates of cheese and meets, pasta and rice dishes, small sandwiches, crudité, salads and breads.  If you are worried that you need to get there right at opening, don’t be because they keep on refilling the bar with new plates and dishes.

Something that Italians really appreciate is taking pleasure in what they are doing and truly enjoying it.  This is nonetheless true for drinking.  They like to take their time over a long chat or discussion over good company and something to nibble on.  This concept is unfamiliar in other cultures but once unlocked, you wonder how you ever lived without it.  Aperitivi are great for students on a budget because they are very wallet friendly going for about 8 euros.  This being said, they are not just for those on a budget.  You can check out higher end places such as B.Gallo in Piazza del Duomo or SE.STO on top of the hotel Westin in Piazza Ognissanti.   If you want to mingle with the locals, head to either Santo Spirito or San Niccolò where you will find the piazzas chalk full of choices.  In Santo Spirito, check out Pop Café for a vegetarian aperitivo or Volume, which also makes sweet and savory crepes late into the night.  In San Niccolò, stop by Zoe or head further down towards the tower for many other options.  A little further off the beaten path in the Campo di Marte area is Dogali, where you can find various breads and pastas, all made by them fresh everyday.  It truly is worth the extra trek. 


The idea of an aperitivo is also something you can easily put together at home for your friends. It is a great way to invite many different people and get to know others. Try buying a couple of bottles of wine and then offering a typical Italian cocktail, the spritz, which is simply Aperol and prosecco. Plan ahead by making a few things that can be served at room temperature such as a frittata, a pasta dish and a plate of different meats and cheese accompanied by sliced bread and chips. Once guests start arriving, everything is already ready and all you have to do is enjoy your cocktail Italian style: with friends and over a good bite to eat.


 
 

More Feltrinelli bookstores in Florence soon



 by Louisa Loring




With online companies becoming more and more popular by offering low prices and growing at an incalculable rate, mom and pop bookstores are more and more quickly being forced to throw in the towel and call it quits.  For those of us who could spend hours browsing a bookstore looking for staff picks and flipping through the newly released, this is a sad time.  But, not all hope is lost with the announcement of the Italian bookstore, Feltrinelli that plans to open two more locations in Florence to their already two locations in via Cavour (the international store) and in via De’ Cerretani. 

The first new location is scheduled to open shortly in Piazza della Repubblica where the old bookshop Edison closed in November 2012.  Modeled after the Roman store, this Feltrinelli will open with a new system RED (read, eat, dream) that brings together the pleasure of reading with the pleasure of eating and drinking with its own restaurant.  In this way, the bookstore manage to find a niche in the ever growing world of online competition by offering people the opportunity to spend a rainy afternoon reading new books while enjoying a plate of pasta or a good glass of wine.  In addition, the franchise plans to open another location in train station of Santa Maria Novella, which is sure to ensure good business by reeling in all those travelers looking to pass the time while waiting for their connecting train. 



 
 


Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Etimologie e modi di dire italiani: la festa della Candelora



 di Ilaria Gelichi



Oggi parliamo di una festa popolare italiana poco conosciuta, che è appena trascorsa: la Candelora (2 febbraio). Si tratta di una festa cristiana in cui la Chiesa celebra la presentazione di Gesù al Tempio e la purificazione di Maria con la benedizione delle candele. Questo perché, secondo un precetto dell’Antico Testamento, una madre rimaneva impura nei primi 40 giorni dopo il parto – e il 2 febbraio cade appunto 40 giorni dopo il 25 dicembre, giorno della nascita di Gesù. Oggigiorno questa festa ha perso molte delle sue caratteristiche tradizionali, tuttavia si usa ancora benedire i ceri accesi; a Roma, ad esempio, l’offerta dei ceri al Papa è ancora una tradizione molto solenne.
Ma le origini della Candelora sono molto più antiche e veniva celebrata anche in alcune religioni precristiane, all’incirca nello stesso periodo dell’anno (tra la fine di gennaio e l’inizio di febbraio). Ai tempi dei Romani si celebravano i Lupercalia in onore del dio Fauno (in latino Lupercus), il protettore del bestiame dall’attacco dei lupi. Per i Romani il nuovo anno cominciava il 1° marzo e la festa era collocata quindi quasi alla fine dell’anno e al culmine della stagione fredda. La somiglianza tra le due feste sta nell’idea di purificazione che si ha in entrambe e nell’usanza di accendere lampade e fiaccole.
Anche nella tradizione celtica irlandese esisteva una festa molto simile alla Candelora: Imbolc, che trovandosi a metà strada tra il solstizio d’inverno e l’equinozio di primavera segnava il passaggio dal buio alla luce e simboleggiava risveglio e rinascita. La luce e la rinascita sono le caratteristiche comuni che troviamo in moltissime culture europee.
In Italia la Candelora ha anche un significato molto importante dal punto di vista meteorologico: infatti, secondo la tradizione popolare, in base al tempo che farà in questo giorno si può prevedere se l’inverno durerà ancora a lungo o no. I proverbi variano da regione a regione e in alcuni casi hanno addirittura significato opposto! In Toscana, ad esempio si usa dire:

« Pella 'Andelora
se pioe o se gragnola
dell'inverno semo fora;
ma se sole o solicello
semo ancor in mezzo a i'verno.
 »

e cioè: per la Candelora, se piove o grandina siamo fuori dall’inverno; ma se c’è il sole siamo ancora in mezzo all’inverno. Questa versione vale anche per gran parte d’Italia, ma ci sono alcune regioni in cui la previsione si inverte, ad esempio il Veneto:

Col dì de'a Candeòra
de l'inverno semo fora;
ma se piove o tira vento,
de l'inverno semo ancora 'rento.
 »



e cioè: per la Candelora siamo fuori dall’inverno, ma se piove o tira vento ci siamo ancora dentro. 
Se cerchiamo bene, anche fuori dall’Italia esistono credenze simili: negli Stati Uniti e in Canada, proprio il 2 febbraio si celebra il Giorno della Marmotta (Groundhog Day). In questo giorno si osserva appunto una marmotta: se esce dalla sua tana e non riesce a vedere la sua ombra perché il cielo è nuvoloso, significa che l’inverno finirà presto. Se invece la marmotta si spaventa vedendo la propria ombra e rientra nella sua tana, allora significa che l’inverno durerà ancora 6 settimane. Questa festa deriva dalla tradizione scozzese del Candlemas Day, di nuovo una festa della luce, associata ad un proverbio molto simile a quello toscano: « If Candlemas Day is bright and clear, there'll be two winters in the year. » e cioè se quel giorno il cielo sarà sereno, l’inverno durerà ancora per molto.